Speed Reading And Sparring.
Just like sparring, it takes tremendous amount of effort and work to get really good at reading quickly.
Muscle-memory is an interesting and highly useful mechanism. It’s what allows us to unconsciously react to situations that we have already seen a thousand times before; moving effortlessly from one position to the next. If you have ever comfortably sparred before, you’ll know this feeling quite well. Once you have blocked or dodge a thousand punches, it will seem only natural to block or dodge those same punches again at your next sparring session.
The thing is, we rarely attribute the mind as being a muscle capable of employing such muscle-memory techniques as well. But, ultimately, what is muscle-memory if not a highly encoded series of neural pathway? The mind (and, in effect, the brain) is essentially a muscle with trillions of neural pathways that can either be strengthened or weakened, depending on what you choose to do each day (check out my previous article, Practice Makes People*, for a more philosophical and practical perspective from this realization). Neural pathways are also what the ancient yogis would call Samskara*.
So, how does sparring relate back to reading? Well, the more work you put into getting “good” at sparring (strengthening the neural pathways specific to the task) the better at it you will become. If you want to look more into this innate cerebral mechanism, I highly recommend checking out books like Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind* and The Winner's Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use To Achieve Success*, along with various others found in our Books* section related to the brain.
If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I read a lot. However, this certainly wasn’t the case before. I actually hated reading—it wasn’t until 2016 that I forced myself to start reading more and more books in order to consumer data that was considered more difficult-to-access. What makes data found in books more difficult-to-access? Well, think about the primary obstacle to entry—who really reads anymore?
As I practiced reading, I would actually notice myself begin to “skip” over certain words (such as “the”, “a”, “is”) while still retaining the context of what it is that I was reading about. Though I did watch a few YouTube videos with regard to speed reading (namely Tim Ferriss’ How To Speed Read* video), it wasn’t until recently (after speaking with a former English teacher) that I was able to affirm what it is that I was doing all along. I was committing reading to my muscle-memory and, in effect, reading much faster by apparently “skimming” over the text.
Speed reading is skimming with context; allowing the brain to intake the core of what it is that it is reading about, while blocking out all of the fluff. It’s looking to the principle and not the program.
Truth be told, speed reading isn’t a very easy skill to master (I’m not even close to mastering it). It takes a lot of discipline, commitment and practice to just get it going at all. Really, this article isn’t meant to provide you with any tips, tricks, or hacks; but what it is meant to do is give all of you non-readers out there (like I once was) a bit of a ‘light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel’ moment. Because, I must say, though it is a tough skill to get started, it really is a neat little technique once you get the hang of it!